[EDITORIALS]More dams, more problems

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[EDITORIALS]More dams, more problems

We have learned belatedly that North Korea has begun building a multi-purpose dam on the upper stream of the Imjin River. The reservoir can hold up to 400 million tons of water, a great shock to the South. Without notifying us in advance, North Korea is building a dam, and the South has been fussing around fruitlessly after the construction began. We wonder how often such a practice will be repeated.

When the dam is completed, downstream areas will have water shortages and environmental damage. The new dam will also divert the Imjin River flow to the Yeseong River in order to supply water and hydroelectric power to the Gaeseong industrial project. The Paju and Yeoncheon areas in South Korea, where residents have suffered perennially from floods, will see even greater flood damage whenever the North discharges water during the summer rainy season. After the reservoir begins to fill up, managing the water quality downstream will be difficult and the destruction of the ecosystem will accelerate.

The Ministry of Construction and Transportation learned in October that the dam was being built; the ministry asked the North for details at the November inter-Korean talks. But the ministry did not make the information public. The government continues to hide any news that could damage North-South detente. What is it gaining?

The Construction Ministry says it has plans to counter the ill effects of the dam, but before working-level flood prevention talks with the North in January, Seoul must demand that a joint river management system be set up. North Korea must cooperate in using a shared river. The South began to expand its Peace Dam last month; talks with the North will be necessary before deciding whether that dam is to be used just as a defense against problems at the North's Geumgansan Dam or whether it should be a multipurpose dam.

The peaceful use of a shared river is an urgent and practical issue that the two Koreas can resolve through negotiations.
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